Ever wondered whether pruning fruit trees and lack of fruit are related? Do you have any trees this year that don’t have fruit on them?

Not sure why?

It might be because of how you pruned them. The harder you prune your fruit trees, the more the tree will respond by growing, to replace the wood you removed. It’s important to understand this basic pruning principle.

You can clearly see it at work in these pear trees below. The trees have been hedge pruned, which has resulted in massive growth at the tops of the trees. It’s not a technique we recommend in Grow Great Fruit, but is common in big commercial orchards, as you can see here.

Pear trees that have been hedge pruned
Pear trees that have been hedge pruned

What effect does hard pruning have in your tree?

If you prune a tree too hard, you may force the tree to divert all its energy into growing wood instead of producing fruit. It’s one of the most common (but by no means the only) reasons your tree may not have fruit.

Keeping your fruit tree in balance should be your aim when winter pruning mature fruit trees. You want it to keep growing new wood each year, but you also want it to stay calm and produce plenty of fruit.

A President plum tree showing a good growth response to pruning
A President plum tree showing a good growth response to pruning

This photo above shows a President plum tree with lovely strong new shoot growth in response to last winter’s pruning.

You can see in the photo below that it also has a nice crop of fruit – success!

A nice crop of President plums on trees that were pruned in winter
A nice crop of President plums on trees that were pruned in winter

However for young trees, you’re aiming to tip the balance between shoot growth and fruit production firmly towards growth!

A young cherry tree showing strong growth in response to pruning to create new branches in the tree
A young cherry tree showing strong growth in response to pruning to create new branches in the tree

How quickly can you expect a crop on your young fruit trees?

We often get asked the question, how quickly will a fruit tree start producing fruit. In fact, they’ll often flower and bear fruit the year you plant them (depending on what type of tree they are). However, we reckon it’s better to NOT let them have fruit until the tree’s grown enough branches.

It usually takes at least two to three years to prune a fruit tree into the right shape, if you’re trying to grow a vase-shaped tree (which is a great shape for most backyards),

Three year old apricot trees of different sizes
Three year old apricot trees of different sizes

You can see that the tree on the left has grown strongly in the photo above of three-year-old apricot trees. In fact, it has grown enough branches to make the shape we want, i.e. a vase. We can now let it bear fruit because it’s mature enough.

However, the tree on the right hasn’t grown as well for some reason and is much smaller. We’ve taken off the fruit that set this year. The tree can then put its energy into growing new branches for at least another year before it’s allowed to have fruit.

In the short course How to Look After Fruit Trees in the First 3 Years, you’ll learn about pruning fruit trees the right way from the beginning. As you can see, the same principle still holds good with your mature trees. It may just help to solve the problem of why your tree has no fruit!